Category: Art quilts

Holding you back

The “Cloth & Clay” exhibit at Campbell House Galleries closes next week. It’s almost time to take it all down and store it away for another opportunity. Why do I create? It’s because I have to. There is something in my DNA or maybe it’s just some off-kilter electricity in my brain.

I don’t remember a time that I didn’t create. I think my mom was blessed because as a young child all she had to do was put a new craft or book in front of me and I would be engaged for hours.

In high school, I was secretly embarrassed that I crocheted because that is what old ladies did. In college I had a classmate who, after I described my new passion for knitting, told me that I was “so domestic” [spoken condescendingly]. After graduate school I remember calling myself a “closet crafter,” because I didn’t want people I worked with know about my “non-professional” hobbies. These were my saboteurs.  Yet, I still would speed crochet an afghan in no time while watching tv at night. Now I’ll either knit or stitch to pass time. And, I focus deliberately on making textile art.

I’m still learning, refining and pursuing my skills. I continued even though some would have given up. For me it’s a passion, something in-grained. I want to keep learning and exploring. Even when I’m my own worst critic, I continue. What about you? Do you have a gut feeling about creating? Do you love making things? Would you call these skills your passion? Are you listening to your feelings and acting on them? Are you ignoring your critics (even the one in your head)? What’s holding you back?

Fix whatever is not working

So … there it is. Everything is hung and looking pretty.
The idea of creating an art exhibit sounds romantic. It is but, it’s also a lot of work to include creating the art and coordinating all the details (like when to hang, how to hang, reception details, advertising, etc.). As I reflect on all of this, I realize I have a wealth of knowledge. I’ve been involved with producing a countless number of textile art exhibits, including my own solo exhibit. I’ve learned quite a number of tips along the way.

With every exhibit, I walk away with more knowledge; What would or wouldn’t I do again?

It’s interesting that, whatever journey you follow, you have the opportunity to grow. It’s important to step back and review your accomplishments because it helps you reflect on what’s important. What might have been the answer to your life-long questions, may just be a stepping stone for the ultimate pinnacle. So, pay attention, keep trying and fix whatever is not working.

 

Cloth & Clay
June 4-25, 2021
Campbell House Galleries, Southern Pines, NC
Open Mon-Fri 9-5p  | Saturday, June 19  2-4p
(click image below for larger view)

What’s holding you back?

The last few weeks I’ve been finishing up details for an exhibit that opens up June 4, 2021 (see below). I’m making the final selection, labeling, creating an inventory, and taking care of hanging details (frames and hanging rods). I’ve been working on this exhibit for 2 years. That’s usually how long it takes from notification until hanging. When you’re looking forward, 2 years seems like a long time. When you’re looking back it seems like seconds.

I’ve had high and low points during this journey. Always questioning and seeking the energy to keep the procrastination away. There were things that I made which I think were failures. But, nothing really is a failure is it? It may feel that way, but it’s not. It’s all part of the learning process.

As I look at the artwork that will hang in this show, I think back to 10 years ago. In 2011, I submitted a thread painted portrait of my dog to the Quilting Arts Magazine calendar competition. “The Perfect Storm” was selected to be “Mr. September” for their 2012 calendar. This was the first time my art had been recognized by someone outside of family and friends. I felt I was on to something; my artistic voice was starting to appear.

Over the last 10 years, there have been many changes. I have matured physically, mentally, spiritually, and artistically. The “failures” along the way where opportunities to learn and grow. If I didn’t have the failures, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I also don’t think my art would be where it is.

My driving mantra … especially when I was ready to throw in the towel … is “never give up!” When what you do is a passion, you can’t give up, because passion is part of your soul.  And, how do you give up on your soul?

As I reflect on my journey, I’m thinking of you. Do you have a passion? Are you pursuing your dreams? What’s holding you back?

 


Cloth & Clay
June 4-25, 2021
Artist reception:
June 4th – 6-8pm
Campbell House Galleries, Southern Pines, NC

There for a reason

This week I finished my hawk quilt. It’s been quilted, squared up and a facing added (instead of binding). Overall, this is a simple design; a bird on a branch. The fact that the hawk is 24″ tall is really where things got complicated. All said and done, I used 18 colors of thread to finish this piece. In my Paint with Thread classes, I teach the exact techniques that I used for this piece, except I significantly scale down the number of thread colors.

When I create my art quilts, I always use an oversized background fabric. Whenever you add heavy stitching (e.g., quilting or thread painting), the fabric pulls in and you wind up with a smaller piece than you started with. The amount of shrinkage correlates with how much stitching you add. At the end, I square things up, removing the excess fabric.

When I create, I go through various stages of anxiety. This is especially true when I’m creating for a deadline. Each step of the process supports the next, if anything goes wrong the outcome might lead to starting all over again. Hopefully, if the worse happens, I can develop plan B, but that’s not always the case.

Squaring up a quilt is anxiety provoking for me. At this stage of the process, starting over is not a welcome option. I realize the anxiety is helpful by making me hyper-alert and focused on the process so I do it correctly. Why? because if I do it wrong my rectangular quilt could wind up with obtuse angles versus right (90°) angles. Obtuse angles make the quilt look skewed and hang wonky or ruffly. I embrace the perfectionist in me during this process, because it will show if done wrong. I just have to remind myself to breathe, this anxiety is there for a reason.

 

Work in Progress

I’ve been thinking about being an “artist.” It took me a great deal of time to accept that title for myself. I always knew that I was creative. From a young age I was interested in arts & crafts: knitting, crochet, modeling clay, painting, drawing, paper mache, needlepoint, cross stitch, etc.  When I was in my 40’s, I had great debates with my Aunt who insisted I was an artist and I would insist I was not, but I wanted to be.

I’m confident now and it’s mainly because I found my artistic voice. There’s a medium (textiles) that I prefer to work in and my subject matter is well defined in my brain. My artwork is original and not copied from someone else’s vision (or style). I’m never lacking an idea for a new piece and the subject always is nature inspired. I still dabble in other things, but they are solely for me. For example, I’m working on a quilt to commemorate my grandmother’s journey to the US via Ellis Island. I always have at least 2 knitting projects to work on. And, I like this new slow stitching, because it (along with knitting) settles me when I’m sitting.  But these things aren’t my art.

As I’ve traveled this journey, I’ve struggled with the title “artist.” It reflected in me through imposter syndrome: “How dare you call myself an artist? You’re working in textiles and that’s CRAFT!” Through the journey, I realized that this is not something I’ve made up in my own head. It’s things that I’ve heard and used to judge myself. Studying art, I realize there isn’t one definition (although some insist that there is).

One perceived distinction is the comparison of professional artists vs non-professionals. I’ve heard some people argue that artwork should be viewed (judged/juried) differently between professional and non-professional artists. Well, what is a professional artist? If I sell one piece during the course of my life does that make me a professional? If I quit selling my art, does that remove the title “professional” from my classification? Does it mean someone who chooses to never sell their work can never have the talent of a professional or show in professional categories?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this and realized the term “professional” to describe artists really bothers me. It is part of what fueled my imposter syndrome and self-doubts. I hear a level of arrogance in the term when people demand to be segregated because they are “professionals.” Wouldn’t a ranking by mastery be a better judge of skill (novice, competent, experienced and master/expert)? I still have some growing and refining I want to achieve  with my art. So, until the rest of the world catches up to my thinking, I’m going to refer to myself as a “working” artist who is highly experienced. I am a work in progress.

Have fun!

I feel comfort knowing that life is slowly creeping back to normal. The world seems to be running more like an out of tune sports car versus an old “hit ‘n miss” tractor.” We all have been affected by this past year and life will never again be like 2019. We’ve all adapted to changes. I’m kind of liking this mask idea, because I haven’t gotten sick (knock on wood) in over a year. And, I’m also embracing the Zoom technology. Yesterday, I held my very first live Zoom class.

I’m a bit of a technical geek. In 1990’s and early 2000’s, I use to design e-commerce websites. That was a time when most people didn’t have a “personal computer” (PC) or know what the Internet was. Even with this techie background, I wasn’t ready to embrace Zoom. I spend enough time in front of the computer and I wanted to find ways to get away from it. Zoom wasn’t for me. As the shut-down continued to stop my livelihood, I knew I had to think out of my box.

I took my first Zoom class presented by my friend Jodi Ohl. She is a mixed-media painter. I love her sense of artistic whimsy, so I signed up for her class. What I discovered was live Zoom art classes can be a lot of fun. You’re not sitting there watching a boring lecture, you’re actually working along with the instructor. You’re in your own comfortable creative space and everything is within reach, including the snacks or fresh pour of coffee. Need a different color thread? … just go get one. Forgot your machine pedal? … go grab it from the other room. And bonus!! … everyone participating has front rows seats. No more, standing behind tall people during demonstrations. (YES!!) You can work along or sit and watch…You can be you!!

Yesterday, my students praised these aspects of Zoom classes and I got to see what it was like to be on the other side. When I would teach in-person, I would grab my little “kit” of supplies and go teach. I learned that my kit needed a lot more supplies. Before class, I had to produce videos that show my sewing techniques (which eliminates many uncontrollable levels of chaos sewing live). I needed more step-out examples to demonstrate my processes and I needed to plan ahead to get class handouts to the students. And I had to get comfortable with all the new equipment, lighting, computers, cameras and software.

I was apprehensive at first, but I realized I liked the process. During class, I forgot I was in my room alone. We chatted and shared stories. They worked on their projects and I anxiously waited to see their progress (unlike in-person classes you can’t see what someone is doing on their sewing machine). BTW, everyone did great!

My follow-up verdict is I’m going to continue doing this. And, if you find you’re missing taking classes, check with your favorite artists and see if they’re teaching online; enroll if it fits. I bet you’ll have fun!

 

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Bee-done

We all have those days that we’re hard on ourselves. I’m trying to stay focused on what I need to do, yet be mindful that my expectations for getting things done may not always work as planned. Admittedly, I sometimes overthink things. And, although I may be recovering, there’s still that perfectionist inside of me critiquing the process. It’s a constant juggle of doing things well and letting go of when they don’t.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I finally found a visual of my feelings most days; the one-man band. As a kid, I remember seeing a guy like the one pictured. I found him fascinating and fun. A traveling musician that is responsible for playing all the instruments of his mini-orchestra. I have such fond memories of watching him play.

Yep…that’s what I’m doing. I’m responsible for all the parts of my tiny enterprise and I’m trying to have fun. Eventually, all the little bits and pieces I’ve been working on fall into place and I get to acknowledge progress and bee-done.

 

Bee-kind to yourself

As I posted last week, I resolved my hexagon challenges on this new art quilt. With the edition of my latest design element, I hope it is obvious where I’m going with this. The little buddy needs some wings and the background (honeycomb) needs quilting. I’m almost there.

I feel like I’m moving in slow motion. I’m juggling many things “behind the scenes.” Unfortunately, they are things that aren’t really tangible items. I’m doing a lot of computer work, scheduling classes and prep work for the June exhibit. This upcoming week, I’ll be sharing some news that is a major new direction for me. I’ve been producing pre-recorded, on-demand classes. Now I’m ready to take the next step and do some live instruction on-line. More soon…

The thing is, I realize I’m still in this covid-funk. As much as I try to accept the current normal, the things I use to do aren’t the same. I have no desire to teach machine sewing classes in-person right now. It’s not that I don’t want to teach in-person … I am teaching locally, just not machine sewing. Moving forward with live Zoom-based classes will help me work through my mental process of changing focus. I’m looking forward to seeing where this leads.

Creative professionals are a silent statistic in this pandemic economy. Musicians, artists, and actors alike are grappling with their forward momentum. The gigs aren’t there and it’s uncertain when they will be. To stay viable, we have to find innovative ways to share and sell our art. The current “normal” is giving all of us a pause to self-reflect and possibly change direction. The momentum can sometimes feel slow, but there’s always that light inside that reminds us everything is going to be alright. Just remember “Bee-Kind” to yourself.

Stuck when creating

As I mentioned last week, I don’t work with a real “plan.” Maybe that’s good, maybe not. I have a vision or idea, and start working with stops and starts along the way. The following description is an insight to my creative process.

Over the past week, I attached the hexis to my background fabric and created an applique element that will go on top (you’ll see that next week). When I auditioned the applique on the hexis, it looked flat. There was no pop or interest and the applique didn’t stand out.

So, I auditioned some fabrics that I could lay in the center of the hexagons to give it a dimensional appearance. I found a loosely woven material in my stash, laid it on top of the design and stitched around each hexi shape. Then, I cut away the excess material. Tedious.

While I was stitching I noticed the there was a little pocket between the two layers of fabrics. I didn’t like that. I thought, I “should have!!” put Mystifuse on the back of the woven fabric. Then after stitching, I could iron it to adhere it in place. The problem … I didn’t use Mystifuse. Grumbling to myself, I kept on going.

As I continued to work, I thought about … “matte mediums.” I think of mediums as akin to Mod Podge but of higher quality. Mediums are acrylic liquids that can be used by artists to adhere collage material or used to thin acrylic paints. The word matte means there’s no sheen. If you wanted a shine, you would use a gloss medium.

Once the woven cloth was stitched in place and the excess removed, I then “painted” it with matte medium. This not only adheres the 2 layers of cloth, but also stops the woven cloth from unraveling. I succeeded with my vision and I’m ready for the next steps.

Although some people map out their plan, I like the challenge of not knowing. The vision drives me. Most of the time I can work around the obstacles. Usually what saves me is my arsenal of ideas. Mediums are not something quilters usually keep on hand, but other artists do. Because I have exposed myself to many different art techniques, my “toolbox of ideas” is full. And, my stash of supplies is diverse. Classes are a great way to learn new things.

I encourage you to take classes and experiment. Don’t be disheartened if you take a class and find you’re not good at it. You will likely always learn something new when you take a class. Understanding what you like and don’t like is part of the learning process. The more you learn, the more options you have. The bigger the tool box, the less likely you’ll ever truly feel stuck when creating.

What happens next

From teaching people how to make things, to creating my own designs to sell, I am one of those lucky people who’s work is art. It’s a constant juggle to find studio time to create. Having external deadlines does help get me in the studio. (How do you prioritize time for making your art?)

I’m trying to get better at setting priorities and time for different tasks. I have a bunch of videos ready to be turned into YouTube clips. My on-demand “Photo to Applique” class is waiting for my attention and I need to be working on a few final pieces for an exhibit I’m participating in this June. Time management will definitely be priority these next few months.

Today I’m working on an art piece that will consist of many hexagons. There are several ways to make a hexagon. Templates are an easy way to cut them, but what if you don’t have the right size template?  This video shows how to cut one using a straight quilters ruler (YouTube is awesome!). So you can quickly and easily cut any size hexi that you want. I cut a bunch of them last night.

(Can you tell I don’t work with a real plan?  —  The idea drives me and I figure out the process as I go along. )

Then I had to decide how to attach them to my base fabric. I thought of several different approaches … I decided to sew 2 hexi’s together; cut a slit in one; then, turn it right side out. This is going to give them a bit more dimension (relief) than a single layer of fabric. I’ll sew these, slightly puffy, shapes onto the background fabric to create my design and then proceed from there. I like where this is going, but let’s see what happens next.